Wall Units, Shelves or Nothing: Which Is Best for Your Kitchen?

Here are some things to consider when selecting storage options for your kitchen walls

Cabinets aren’t the only solution for your kitchen walls. You could add character with open shelving or just leave the space blank for an airy feel. Here’s a rundown of the pros for each choice, plus a few tips for overcoming the cons.

Contemporary Kitchen by Obbard Design & Development

Wall Cabinets

Banish kitchen clutter. You know where you are with a standard wall cabinet. Everything gets stacked inside, you close the door, and the kitchen instantly looks tidy. If you want a simple way to keep your cooking space neat and uncluttered, wall cabinets are the way to go.

Contemporary Kitchen Contemporary Kitchen
Lose the handles for a sleek look. For a streamlined style, wall cabinets are ideal. The handleless units here look especially sleek in this contemporary kitchen. The line of glossy white wall units forms a striking contrast to the black recess below.

Farmhouse Kitchen by Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens

Lighten up with glass fronts. A wall of cabinets can feel heavy and make the room appear smaller. Break up the area by including glass-fronted units. They will create the illusion of space while still providing storage.

Contemporary Kitchen by Artifact Lighting Ltd.

Add interest around your units. It’s difficult to inject personality into a room that’s full of cabinets. Solve this by including other interesting features in the space. Here, the tiled backsplash provides a bold feature in an otherwise minimal kitchen.

Transitional Kitchen by Chris Snook<

Vary your colors. If your kitchen is full of cabinets and drawers, it may feel as if the space is filled with the same color. Combat this by adding another shade into the mix. Here, a purple island prevents the blue from overpowering the room.

Farmhouse Kitchen by Anthropologie Europe

Open Shelves

Boost your kitchen’s character.
A wall of shelves can look fantastic in your cooking space. It’s a great way to add character to the room. The copper, coral and white objects on these rustic shelves look stunning against the dark wall.

Farmhouse Kitchen by Morgan Harris Architects Ltd

Keep the space airy. Open shelves will make your kitchen feel lighter and more spacious. This narrow room could have appeared smaller with a row of wall cabinets. The long shelves don’t encroach on the space and instead help to open it up.

Beach Style Kitchen by Whitstable Island Interiors

Style wisely for a tidy look. Cabinets can hide all manner of untidiness inside, while open shelving will have everything on display. If you’re worried about keeping the area tidy, include only similar objects on your shelves. They will look neat when arranged together and will create a feeling of order.

Contemporary Kitchen by Martyn Clarke Architecture

Use containers that deter dust. Open shelves can attract dust and grease, so if this is a concern, avoid displaying tableware. Instead, use the area for dry ingredients. Put everything in easy-to-wipe-down jars and canisters to keep it grime-free and looking lovely.

Scandinavian Kitchen by Blakes London

Blank Walls

Pare back. It’s becoming increasingly popular to forgo upper wall storage entirely. Kitchens like this one are outfitted with just a row of base cabinets and nothing on top. It looks light and airy, and gives a feeling of space and movement.

Traditional Kitchen by Stephen Graver Ltd

Exploit a simple backdrop. The exclusion of wall furniture here has allowed the owners to display artwork instead. The plain wall also provides a clean backdrop against which the pendant lights can shine.

Transitional Kitchen by deVOL Kitchens

Choose alternatives to paint.
If you fancy something more interesting than a painted wall, hunt out alternative surfaces. The wood paneling here offers a wipe-clean area and adds character to the space.

Transitional Kitchen by Christopher Howard

Highlight raw materials. In a room with architectural features on show, it’s a good idea to leave the walls clear. The exposed stone in this kitchen looks so stunning, it would be a shame to cover it with cabinets or shelves. If your walls have an interesting element, consider leaving them blank to give your room more character.